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Analysis

Explainer - Why David Warner withdrew the appeal against his lifetime captaincy ban

How the process to review the penalty imposed on David Warner four years ago became a contentious issue

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
08-Dec-2022
David Warner said he did not want to put his family through any more difficulty to get his ban overturned  •  Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

David Warner said he did not want to put his family through any more difficulty to get his ban overturned  •  Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

On Wednesday evening, David Warner announced he was withdrawing his bid to have his lifetime leadership ban overturned and expressed his anger at how the process has played out. Here's a rundown of how the game got into this tangle.
The backstory
This all stems back to the events of that day at Newlands in early 2018, when Cameron Bancroft was caught with sandpaper down his trousers and Australia admitted to ball-tampering. The fallout was swift and dramatic: David Warner and Steven Smith were handed one-year bans from the game in Australia and Bancroft a nine-month sanction. On top of that, Warner was given a lifetime leadership ban and it's that penalty which has returned to the spotlight this year.
What had changed?
It was in February this year that the first suggestions of Cricket Australia overturning Warner's leadership ban started to emerge, but it became a long, drawn-out process. The leadership and board of CA had changed significantly since the initial sanctions, but the first stumbling block was the wording of the code of conduct that did not actually allow a player to appeal a punishment once they had accepted it - which Warner did back in 2018. However, the board went through the process of rewriting the code and it was confirmed in November that a player could now appeal a long-term sanction.
What did the new code say?
"Under the changes, players and support staff can now apply to have long-term sanctions modified. Any applications will be considered by a three-person review panel, comprising independent code of conduct commissioners, which must be satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist to justify modifying a sanction.
"These circumstances and considerations will include whether the subject of the sanction has demonstrated genuine remorse; the subject's conduct and behaviour since the imposition of the sanction; whether rehabilitation programs have been completed undertaken (if applicable) and the length of time that has passed since the sanction was imposed and whether sufficient time has passed to allow for reform or rehabilitation."
How was the appeal set to work?
The key part for Warner was needing to demonstrate "genuine remorse" and it was widely assumed he would be able to show this strongly given his clean disciplinary record since 2018 and endorsements from many key figures around the game. He would need to present his case to the three-person independent panel, who would be able to question him in response, but the significant part was the belief that this would be held in private.
"I think it's just about being fair that at the end of the day, I'm not a criminal. You should get a right of appeal at some stage," Warner said when the code of conduct as amended. "I understand that they put a ban in place but banning someone for life I think is a bit harsh. I've done my time to get back into the Australian cricket set-up.
"It's a tad disappointing that when you make a decision in 2018, it's in four days, and then this takes nine months. Hopefully a decision can be made and we can just move forward."
Why has Warner withdrawn his appeal?
Warner submitted his appeal late last month and this is when the dynamics changed. The review panel decided they wanted the hearing to be held in public with it, in effect, becoming a re-trial of what happened in 2018, rather than the more narrow focus on whether Warner had demonstrated that he should be allowed leadership positions again.
In his lengthy and strong-worded statement on Wednesday evening, Warner said he was not willing to put his family through that process. "They want to conduct a public spectacle to, in the Panel's words, have a "cleansing". "I am not prepared for my family to be the washing machine for cricket's dirty laundry."
Why didn't CA just make a decision themselves?
Essentially, an attempt to be seen to do the right thing. The amendment to the code of conduct said that any review of a sanction had to be done by an independent panel that could set their own terms and conditions. While there is maybe an argument to support this, it meant they lost control of the process. The CA board could have just resolved to make a decision themselves (after all, this is not a criminal case) and many in the game would probably have accepted that. They could have rewritten their own code any way they wanted. Now there is the bizarre situation where CA and Warner - who were the warring parties when this all began - both agree that they wanted the hearing in private but can't do anything about it.
Was Warner ever really going to captain again?
In reality, maybe not. There was a school of thought that Warner may have the opportunity in the BBL but that wouldn't have happened this season. His window to play for Sydney Thunder - who he rejoined amid much fanfare and a whopping CA marketing contract - is reducing due to the tour of India and Thunder have appointed Jason Sangha as captain. Warner has been mentioned as an option to lead Australia's T20 side as they build towards the 2024 T20 World Cup, but he will be 38 by that event. However, more than whether captaincy would happen again, it was about it at least being an option. And showing the game had moved on. Instead, we are left with a mess.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo